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Is Islam a Religion of Tolerance or Violence?

By Shazia Banoo

The biggest enemy of Islam is the ignorant Muslim, whose ignorance leads him to intolerance, whose actions destroy the true image of Islam, and when the people look at him they think that Islam is what he is. – Sheikh Ahmed Deedat

The topic upon which I m writing is a matter of utmost importance ”Is Islam a Religion of Tolerance or Violence?”

Islam is a Religion of Peace. It teaches us tolerance. While the critics of this faith (and some so-called Muslims) cite verses from the Quran that Islam promotes terrorism, the entire Quran gives a message of hope, faith and peace. Islam teaches Muslims to be kind towards each other. It also encourages us to be kind towards animals and forbidden to hurt them.

In a Hadith it is reported, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.” (Sahih Muslim)

In addition to this, while taking the life of an animal for food, Muslims are commanded to do so in a manner that causes the least amount of fright and suffering to the animal. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “When you slaughter an animal, do so in the best way. One should sharpen his knife to reduce the suffering of the animal.” (Sahih Bukhari)

Islam-Tolerance1In light of these Islamic texts, the act of inciting terror in the hearts of civilians, the mass destruction of buildings and properties, the bombing and mutilation of innocent people are far away, when the Prophet of Islam has taught us to be kind towards animals how could it teach its followers to kill innocent humans. These are all forbidden acts according to Islam and its followers.

Before moving further, first of all we need to know the meaning and origin of terrorism?

According to Oxford Dictionary it defines “Terrorism” as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” The term “terrorism” is believed to have originated during the Reign of Terror during 1794 in France. It was a period of eleven months during the French Revolution when the ruling Jacobins employed violence, including mass executions by guillotine in order to intimidate the regime’s enemies & compel the obedience to the state. Thus in late nineteenth century, terrorism became a legal instrument of the state.

What are the causes of increasing violence in the world today? The answer to increasing violence must lie in the political, economic, military and social changes in the Middle East in our times and how they have ramified in the wider world.

We as a Muslim follow a Religion of peace, mercy and generosity. The vast majority of this community has nothing to do with the violent acts. Muslims are often blamed for a single act of terror. If an individual Muslim were to commit an act of terrorism, that person would be guilty of violating the laws of Islam itself.

Like most of the nations in world right now are experiencing terrorism and blaming Quran for such violence is not only wrong, But there are several facts which demonstrates that there is nothing in the Quran which permits terrorism. While Islamophobes and ISIS will both go on disagreeing with these facts.

Critics as usual apply “pick and choose” approach with regards to the passage of the Quranic verse, “And kill them wherever you find them.” (Qur’an 2:191)

What is exactly meant by the verse “kill them wherever you find them”?

Some people often object to it due to ignorance of its context, while few of them create disorder on account of disbelief or eradicating Islamic values or creating doubts in the hearts of believers. By describing Islam as the Religion of bloodshed, they argue that Islam has allowed Muslims to kill the non-believers wherever they find them.

On this account some non-Muslims as well as terrorist organizations project Islam as the religion of sword, leading to disorder and violence in the land.
However, when it is viewed in context with the verse before and after, you will grasp the whole picture immediately. The Quran requires us to understand its meaning as a whole.

Allah says in the Glorious Quran: “And Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, God does not like transgressors. (Quran 2:190)

It continues to say, “And kill them wherever you find them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah ‘Persecution’ is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. (Quran 2:191)

In the next verse it says, “And if they cease, then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful. (Quran 2:192)

It further says, “Fight them until there is no more fitnah Persecutionand [until] worship is for God. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.(Quran 2:193)

In this verse it says, “Fighting in the sacred month is for aggression committed in the sacred month, and for all violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear God and know that God is with those who fear Him. (Quran 2:194)

In another verse it says, “And spend in the way of God and do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction by refraining. And do good, Indeed God loves the doers of good.” (Quran 2:195)

Therefore it is clear from the above verses that Allah makes it evident to fight those only who fight them and fighting in self-defence is justified.

It’s very important whenever one read a Quranic verse, it should be read in its context. As you have heard, critics only quote the part which suits them, they isolate previous verses and the ones after that, But when the passage is examined in context, it is clear that nowhere does it justify the killing of innocent people.

Islam-Tolerance2The verse in question is being wrongly interpreted by so called Muslims and non-Muslim terror promoting ideologies. The verse was revealed at a time when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) set out for Makkah to perform Umrah along with his 1400 companions. When they reached Hudaybiyyah, the polytheists did not allow him and his companions to enter the city and perform Umrah as intended. It took a great deal of negotiations to reach the agreement that he and his companions would perform Umrah next year. This pact is known as treaty of “Al-Hudaybiyyah”. The believers came back to Madinah as per the treaty, in the next year when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) decided to go Makkah for Umrah, his companions started feeling concerned about the Arab polytheists who could not be trusted upon in a peace treaty as they used to break treaties.

It was quite possible that the Arab polytheists or infidels may attack them. The problem was that fighting within the precincts of Makkah was not permissible in Islam.

This was the time when Allah revealed this verse (2:192) stating that the sacredness of the precincts of Makkah must be observed by Muslims, but if the disbelievers attack them within the sacred limits, it would be permissible for them to fight back in defence. This way the verse allowed them to meet the challenge of their oppression and kill them where they found them.

So, it is clear that the verse “kill them wherever you find them.” is talking about the Arab polytheists or infidels who may attack the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions who had decided to go Makkah for Umrah after the treaty of Al-hudaibiyyah. But it does not include all common polytheists & non-Muslims such as those living in the world today. It only includes those who break peace treaty and contentment of the country and kill innocents. So fighting against such infidel oppressors who break peace treaty of the country is allowed, no matter whether the oppressor is a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

As far as the general killing of people is concerned, the Quran clearly states, “Whoever kills a soul unless it be for murder or sowing discord in the land it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity and whoever saves a person is as though he has saved all of humanity.”(Quran 5:22)

So killing innocent people is completely out of the question. In war however, if the Indian Army is fighting terrorists for example, it’s obvious the army general of India will command the terrorists be killed in combat.

In another verse of Quran, it is mentioned that if anyone surrenders in a war, it is the duty of the Muslim to literally escort the enemy to safety and this safety is from the other Muslims as well, who might continue to be hostile towards the surrendered enemy.

Another thing, some of the critics love to do with the verse is, they change the Arabic word’s meaning example the word ‘Fitna’ which is used in (2:191) and (2:193) they deceptively have translated the word as ‘disbelief’.

So, when it is read in that perspective, the passage is implying to fight to those who are disbelievers, just because of their religion. But when we examine it, It will turn out to be a complete lie. The Arabic word ‘Fitnah’ means persecution, corruption and sedition. But when the word ‘Fitnah’ is used in verse (2:191) and (2:193) it means ‘persecution’. [Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

Concerning the verse “If two groups of believers fall to fighting” (Quran 49:9) and ‘fight against them until there is no fitnah’ (Quran 2:193) he answered: “We done all this in the time of Prophet. At that time, we came minority so that a Moslem was be faced by fitnah in his religion, either he would be killed or would be the victim of oppression. When the Moslem community grows as powerful adherents, killing oppression has gone.” Based on this argument, we can conclude that ‘fitnah’ should be defined as any oppression or forcing Moslem to do or not to do something against his rights as human being. All this being ratio legis or cause to proclaim fight against oppressor or those who want to kill them.” (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1986), volume, page 227 – 229.

Islam is a practical faith and a Religion of Peace that permits us our self defence when there is an apprehended danger.

As far as Muslim terrorists are concerned, when they act immorally, they don’t do so because they follow the teachings of Quran. Moreover they act against it. So it’s the individuals to blame not the religion. Those who say that they are killing in the name of God is completely a wrong notion.

[Shazia Banoo is pursuing Degree course in Law from Jammu University, J&K. She can be contacted at [email protected]]

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